Friday, March 8, 2013

How to deal with kids who hike at a snail’s pace

"Um, hey bud, this way..."
A hike with children won’t be done at a steady pace from one point to another, so don’t get upset if kids aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like. Instead, adopt this philosophy: Always let children set the pace on the trail.

You simply can’t force them to go as fast as you. They have smaller legs and can’t take as large of steps. Because of that, inclines will be steeper to them than they are to you. Difficult to cross terrain, like rocks or small streams, will be formidable challenges and even barriers to them while you can handle it with a couple of long steps.

In addition, they will stop a lot just to explore and have fun. When kids see a fallen tree, they’re more than happy to climb all over it, meaning you are going to have to either pause or tell them to keep going. If what they wish to explore is dangerous, by all means make them keep going, but if it’s perfectly safe, then stop and relax. After all, among the reasons for the hike is for your kids to enjoy the great outdoors.

And if that’s not enough to slow you down, you’ll also need to take frequent rest stops. A 10-15 minute break every half-hour for kids through third grade is about right.

At the same time, watch for the dawdler, or the child who lags behind the rest of the crew even though keeping up shouldn’t be a problem. As you can’t leave the dawdler behind and don’t want to discourage the other kids from having fun, you need to figure out why the child is lagging.

Their daypack could be too heavy, or their feet may hurt because shoes don’t fit right. They might feel left out and need a little invitation or attention to regain their spirits. Maybe something is bothering them, and they just need you to talk with them a little about it. A hike sounds like the perfect time to lend your child an ear.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.